Monday 23 April 2018

Benitez to play part in Spurs' Euro adventure

Jamie Holland

TOTTENHAM'S European adventure continued apace at the Champions League draw in Monaco yesterday when they were pitched alongside holders Internazionale, who are now managed by former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez.

If that was the kind of showpiece fixture Harry Redknapp had hoped for after clinching qualification on Wednesday night by beating Young Boys 4-0 (6-3 on aggregate), then the Spurs manager will also be wary of the two remaining teams in Group A, Werder Bremen, third in the Bundesliga last season, and Dutch champions FC Twente.

The draw was fairly benign as far as the Premier League's established order were concerned, but not so for Jose Mourinho and his latest employers, the nine-time winners Real Madrid. Mourinho, who guided Inter to last season's success in the Bernabeu final, must return to San Siro to face Milan in this year's "group of death", which also includes Ajax and Auxerre.

There will be no heavyweight collisions for Chelsea -- third favourites behind Barcelona and Madrid -- after they were drawn in Group F with Marseilles, Spartak Moscow and Slovakian side Zilnia. Carlo Ancelotti's team will return to the Luzhniki Stadium to face Spartak, the scene of their 2008 final defeat on penalties against Manchester United.

Alex Ferguson will look forward to facing Rangers, where he made his name as a player. Valencia and the Turkish champions Bursaspor make up Group C.

"There is the Rangers connection -- we played them back in 2003-04 and Alex (Ferguson) and Walter Smith (the Rangers manager) go back a long way," said United's chief executive David Gill. "It will be a great atmosphere at Old Trafford and I remember when we played up there in 2003 and Phil Neville scored a fairly rare goal. It will be a great occasion."

Arsenal were handed what looked a relatively easy task in Group H alongside Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Braga of Portugal and Partizan Belgrade. Ivan Gazidis, chief executive at the Emirates, could not help looking as far ahead as the Wembley final next May.

"There is a real incentive for all English clubs, especially the London clubs," Gazidis said. "It would be fantastic to play in the final in London and I know Spurs and Chelsea will feel the same way. There will probably be a mini competition within a competition there."

Barcelona, quoted as 5/2 favourites last night, meet Panathinaikos, Denmark's Copenhagen and the big-spending Russian champions, FC Rubin Kazan.

Irish Independent

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